We were booked to sail away on to a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. Idyllic.
In some ways, yes. But my family is 25 people strong. And if you count everybody’s ‘extras’ – the boyfriends and girlfriends and best friends – it gets very big and very loud very quickly. We always end up a small protest action that heads down to the beach during December, armed with three cooler boxes, two of the biggest gazebos on the market and a portable radio so we (and everyone else around us) can listen to Radio Sonder Grense, literally sonder grense.
We’re that kind of family. And this time, we were going on a cruise.
Planning a family holiday is always difficult for us. It’s an admin nightmare that requires strategic planning similar to running a military operation.
This cruise holiday was case in point. We booked out a total of 20 of the cheapest rooms on the boat, all next to each other, and hired two school minibuses to transport us from Cradock in the Eastern Cape through the old Transkei to Durban.
This is us before the trip. We even dressed to match…
I must say we really felt some proudly South African camaraderie dodging the potholes in our taxis on the road to Durbs. Wherever we went, we were greeted with cheerful honks from bypassing (real) taxi drivers, which were almost always followed by a look of shock and misunderstanding when they finally came close enough to spot us inside the vehicles.
What must have been another bizarre sight was when we parked the taxis for our first padkos exhibition, spilled out of the busses and descended on an unsuspecting old picnic bench next to the side of the road.
The holiday spirit was thick in the air.
Several padkos stops later, we arrived in Durbs – exhausted and gorged.
The following day was Boat Day. And the Lombards – along with more than 2 000 other passengers and crew – were up before dawn to be in front of the queue to board the MSC Sinfonia.
We soon met our match in an Indian family of equal ‘loudness’ and size, which arrived a few minutes ahead of us and hogged the two on-board Jacuzzis for the entire first day. I couldn’t help but laugh, though, thinking we would have probably done the same thing without even thinking that a group of cousins can fill up two Jacuzzis quite fast…
We managed to hog to Jacuzzi ourselves, though. Don’t worry.
The cruise experience turned out to be okay. We were hit by a storm and suffered severe sea-sickness, along with everyone else. And the all-you-can-eat buffets really didn’t aid the situation either. Apart from that, I don’t think my farming family is truly the type to not see land for days on end. Doing nothing but drink cocktails by the poolside isn’t their thing. Go figure.
Family holidays don’t always work out the way you imagine, regardless of the planning that goes into it.
But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. You see… the older I get, the better I realise that it isn’t actually ‘normal’ for families as big as ours to all holiday together.
Except in South Africa, that is. Like us, and our other Jacuzzi-hogging counterparts on the cruise and surely many other big families in SA, we live for family holidays.
We never miss a Christmas or milestone birthday party or any good reason for the family to get together. It explains why our roads are so busy during Easter and Christmas… we will do anything – even sit in an old school minibus for 9 hours straight – if it means we get to be with family.
This SANRAL ad sums up this sentiment quite well…
I’ve been ashamed of my big-ass family, I won’t lie. Especially when we go on one of our wrecking ball family holidays. But I won’t trade any of the backseat quarrels, embarrassing padkos (think hard-boiled eggs and cold mielies), bunk bed-sharing or endless fights over politics for anything, really. My circus, my monkeys.
We’re actually planning our next trip… to the Kruger this time. I hear the padkos facilities there are amazing…
*UPDATE: The Kruger Holiday turned out a blast.
*This article was originally written for and published by News24 Traveller24. View it here.